Human factors instruction in airlines


It is only if instruction is defined as the integration of education( know why) and training (know how), which it can be related to Human factors. When we talk about human factors training in Aviation, we need examine the concepts of human factors in Aviation first, Lederer(1988)&Trollip& Jensen(1991) identified human factors as the “ the study of how airline pilots interact with their environments”. Therefore, it involves those topics as “adopting machines to human limitations; cockpit organization ‘ crew interaction’ fitness for duty; judgement; problem solving; sensory illusions; distraction, and complacency as result of equipment reliability"( page, 117, Ross, John& Norm, 19971).

As a trend, the aviation industry is trying to initiate the training combining with Human factors. It has been set up by the support of ICAO( the International Civil Aviation Organization)2, collaborating with the worth of HF programmes, like LOFT(Line Oriented Flight Training)3 and CRM (Crew Resource Management)4.

What it is taught?

According to Ross, John, Norm (1997) Human Factors investigation in airline training programmes involves :

1. Basic physiology and the effects of flight (such as sleep, fatigue, stress management , anatomy, health and fitness);
2. Basic aviation psychology(information processing, workload, bias, personality, perception
3. Judgement and decision making (decision models, harzards attitudes and the error chain)
4. Social psychology, and group dynamics(communication and crew resource management)
5. Design of flight decks (ergonomics, documentation and procedures);
6. learning and instruction( with application to ground, simulator, LOFT, CRM and line instruction) (p. 120)

How it is taught ?

More recently, the human factors training programmes have improved fundamental features which differ from the traditional aviation training .

1. The HF training programmes are built on the base of “adult education principles of active learning”(p,120) . It is created by discussion groups, simulations, critical incidents , interactive computer programmes and role play.

2. The new innovation of HF training has offered the pilots for longer periods of time.

3. the new type of HF training has modified the traditional training by techniques attended from other fields , like management and education, which include issue-based learning, based on case studies, and individual improvement practices.

4. Airlines have been grown rapidly by other agencies, with regard to the in-house designs which fulfill the need of company culture.

5. To improve the efficacy of training , the special-purpose questionnaires have to be filled out at the developmental and summative stages. Thus, it leads to a continues improvement by implementation of the system model of training (Ross, John, Norm,1997).

Developing HF training and application in Air Canada

1. In order to improve human factors programme, the first stage is to determine what is in demand.
For example, in 1984, Air Canada has carried out a in-depth needs analysis to observe the objectives and precedence of more than twelve hundred pilots. In order to collaborate with the design of HF training, the analysis distinguish the variation between real and preferred HF behaviours.

2. The second stage is to check on the available resources.
At Air Canada, the company specialists and external consultants have been cooperatively picked out resources and methods of how to present the program, considering the factors of “effectiveness of training, time constraints, financial limitations, and the training needed for presenters”(p.121). As an example, the three day crew resource management course contains the communication, team enhancement, problem-solving and decision making, judgement styles, crew co-ordination and resource management (Ross, John, Norm,1997).

Three phases in development

As examples of Air Canada and Cathay experiences, we identify three phases of HF training as following:

1. Awareness

The new focus of this phase needs a reflection of training needs, and the illustrating the new element of non-technical training. Air Canada has initiated a language of communication HF. For instance, the company normally use mnemonic to remember the models of communication, leadership, and decision making. And also, the brief descriptors will categorize the styles of performance as a common language develops.

At the end, this phase ends up with the introduction and evaluation of the HF workshop, which contributes to an awareness of the chances for participants to experience the HF techniques they need, and to get feedback on their line activities.

That s where study of other airlines helps. At the international conferences, (especially ICAO workshops)5, other valuable HF skills are present, informal discussions, carrying out a search of aviation literature for reports on the other airlines’ process, and writing for copies of manual or course descriptions. It tends to be a matching of airline needs with budget and available LOFT techniques.

In specific, Air Canada use the criteria:

1. measurable effectiveness of the training;
2. limited simulator availability owing to present usage and costs;
3. the need to measure both technical and HF components;

Transport Canada had to approve the training for licence renewal in place of the traditional pilot proficiency check(PPC) and Instrument Flight Rating Renewal (IFR) (p.123, Ross, John, Norm,1997).

2. Practice and feedback

In this phase, crews obtain practice in applying human factors training such as CRM mechanisms and interpersonal techniques.
Especially, it will happen with the help of four circumstances:

1. Pre-LOFT packages;
2. Pre-Briefing
3. LOFT session
4. Debriefing (p.123, Ross, John, Norm,1997)

As an example of Air Canada, the Pre-LOFT package offers common information, explaining the distinction between ‘evaluated training’ and ‘checking’. ( p.123). Before the LOFT session, the performance purposes have to be accomplished. It is focus on Crew rather than personal performance.

In the Pre-briefing, two of the eight HF elements are reflected and discussed with regards to the line operations, which are involved in the LOFTs flown.

The four hour LOFT session has combined the two line-orinted legs and a procedures training sessions.
The Debriefing is a main element of LOFT. In this session, crews watch their performance which have been videotaped and conduct a individual assessment of their performance. It aims to integrate the technical skills with Human Factors training. they are required to give evaluation based on a five–point Likert scale on the following aspects:

1. communication
2. Team enhancement
3. Decision making and problem-solving;
4. Communication style;
5. Conflict resolution;
6. Judgement style;
7. Workload management; and Resource management ( p.124, Ross, John, Norm,1997)

In which, the facilitator will make the assessment according to a list of main behaviours. And the crew will try to recognize the succession of performance which lead to issues and to the successful flight.

LOFT(Line Orinted Flight Training)


In the third phase, examples at Air Canada, CRM was integrated with “line flights, check flights, and simulator sessions”(p.124). and the further level is team enhancement, expand the range of HF training to cover the whole company, which includes “management, maintenance, dispatchers and agents”(p.124,Ross, John, Norm,1997)


Ross,T., John,B.,& Norm,D. (1997). Human factors training in Airlines. In Graham J.F.Hunt(Eds.), Design instruction for Human Factors:Training in Aviation(p.117-126) England: Ashgate Publishing Limitied,1997.

ICAO(1991) HF Digest No.3. Training of Operational Personal in HF. Montreal. Circular227-AN/136
ICAO: training of operational personnel in human factors

Want to know more?

++: Further reading :

Barnes,R.M.(1993) ‘Human Peformance Limitations Requirements-the United Kingdom experience’.HF Digest No.9. Montreal:ICAO

ICAO: Human Factors documents

Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (1992) Advisory Circular.ISSN 1172-0778

Lederer,(1988) in Human Factors in Aviation edited by EI.Weiner and D.C. Nagel, San Diego: Academic Press.p.xv.

Telfer, R.(1993) Aviation Instruction and Training Aldershot: Ashgate.

Telfer,R. and Bent, J.(1992) ‘Producing a workshop for training airline instructors’ The Journal of Aviation/Aerospance Education and Research, 2,2. Spring. 31-38

Trollip, S.R.and Jensen,R.S.(1991) Human Factors for General Aviation Englewood: Jeppeson Sanderson.

Wilson,T.(1993) Aircraft –Human performance Limitations. Notes on the Performance and Limitations Syllabuses for the private and commercial Pilot Licence. Canberra: CCA.

Contributors to this page

Authors / Editors

Alice LiuAlice Liu

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